Marin County Home Buyers: What Are They Looking for in 2022?

5 Norwood Avenue Ross California

My Listing (above) at 5 Norwood Avenue in Ross Sold in One Day for $505,000 Over Asking and Featured Many of the Upgrades in this Article

What Are Marin Home Buyers Looking for in 2022?

This morning I received an email via my website asking: “I wanted your opinion on what buyers are looking for in 2022? What upgrades or features are important to them? I would appreciate it if you could put that in your blog… it would be of interest to your readers.” 

I think this is a great question as we kick off the year and as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and return to a sense of normalcy. Several trends began during the COVID-19 epidemic that I believe will shape home buying for years to come including more flexible work locations, a desire for more living space, and more importance placed on outdoor activities and entertaining.

“It’s Tough to Make Predictions, Especially About the Future”

– Yogi Berra

Marin home buyers 2022

28 Lochness Lane in San Rafael (Sold) Imagine a Home Office With a View Like This!

Working from Home: The New Normal

While certainly many people will return to offices in the coming years, many others will continue to have flexible work locations, working all or part-time from their homes. As I worked with buyers in 2021, they were looking for:

  • Dedicated space for home offices, ideally located in a quieter part of the home: This is essential for dual income couples working from home. In the era of Zoom calls, the space must be private and away from playing children and mealtime activities.
  • More efficient heating and air conditioning: as more time is spent at home, the cost to cool and heat homes has increased. According to this report, Americans spent $12 billion more on energy during the first year of COVID-19 while commercial entities saved $9 billion. Air conditioning, considered a rarity in many parts of Marin County just a few years ago, is considered more and more important to buyers today due to our more intense summers. 
  • Solar electric systems (purchased, not leased!): As energy prices continue to increase, buyers are looking for homes that already have solar panels or are well-suited for solar panel installation. With the average solar panel system having a 6-year payback on investment, and with the federal solar 26% rebate extended another year, solar has become more attractive than ever before. Read my article here on why solar leases are  not a good deal and can be problematic when selling a home.
  • Generators or battery backup systems: PG&E blackouts are more and more common during fire season, and with more extreme weather we are seeing weather-driven outages increase in Marin.
  • Reliable high-speed internet: I always advise my buyers to check with internet service providers prior to finalizing their purchase of a home. There are some surprising gaps in service, even here in Marin County. When I purchased my own home in San Rafael, Comcast wanted to charge $10,000 to install internet & cable to our address! 
Wine tasting room

Wine Tasting Room at 61 Gold Hill Grade in San Rafael (Sold)

The Definition of Home is Changing

During the height of the pandemic, our homes were not just our homes, they were our offices, our restaurants, our movie theaters, even our wine tasting venues. Our backyards became our vacation spots. The concept of “home” is evolving and is no longer just the place to sleep after we work in an office all day, dine out at a restaurant at night and then do it all over again the next day. 

Modern kitchen with stainless appliances and gold stools

High-End Kitchen at 35 Entrata Avenue, San Anselmo (Sold)

Continued / Increased Focus on High-End Kitchens

Those working from home enjoying grocery delivery can much more easily prepare a meal during the workday and save money and time on dining out. Don’t get me wrong – as the pandemic wanes, I plan to resume frequent restaurant meals. However, I do think there is a newfound appreciation for dining at home.

In the luxury real estate market here in Marin County, buyers are looking for large kitchens with center islands for food prep and quick meals. For larger homes where entertaining is critical, they are looking for dual dishwashers, wine dishwashers, wine chillers, pot fillers on stoves and large pantries for food storage.

I always tell my clients: Updating kitchens and master baths are two of the best places to spend money if you are thinking of selling your home.

Hot tub

Outdoor Space: More Important than Ever

Traditionally buyers in Marin County have relocated from the city, looking for better schools, more living space, larger yards, and easy access to hiking. The pandemic has only underscored the importance of these for many buyers. They are not necessarily looking for massive properties, but I predict buyers will continue to seek homes with outdoor spaces for entertaining and play. Pools have become much more popular since the pandemic as more buyers are looking for homes that offer resort-style living. 

Front of bungalow home in San Anselmo California

329 Greenfield Avenue, San Anselmo (Sold) is the definition of curb appeal!

Curb Appeal Still Vital, Even in a Sellers’ Market

Even in a sellers’ market, curb appeal is still critical to attract a variety of buyers and command the highest price for your home. Painting the exterior of your home is a relatively inexpensive way to give your home a facelift. Remember, you are doing this for potential buyers, so even if you are sick of seeing gray or white homes, go with what sells. Purple is not a big seller in today’s market though it’s a lovely color!

New front doors and garage doors are also good ways to improve the curb appeal of your home. Even things as simple as house numbers and a new mailbox make a big difference. Don’t forget to freshen the front landscaping. I always say that new mulch is every seller’s best friend! 

53 Montecito Road in San Rafael main living area

53 Montecito Avenue in San Rafael (Sold) features fire-resistant construction

Fire Safety: On Buyers’ Minds

With the devastating wildfires in California that seem to have become an unfortunate annual occurrence, buyers are much more aware of fire-resistant construction as well as clear defensible space around homes to reduce wildfire risk. Homes that feature whole-house HEPA filtration systems are becoming more widespread as concern rises about the effects of exposure to wildfire smoke.

Additional upgrades include metal roofs, HardiePlank concrete composite siding, and fire-resistant vents which prevent embers from entering attic spaces.

stock market marin home buyers

Marin County Home Prices Have Historically Tracked the Stock Market

A Volatile Stock Market and Its Impact on Buyers in 2022

2022 started off with one of the most volatile stock markets in the last 25 years, with rising inflation and interest rates spooking investors. While the stock and housing markets have been intrinsically linked for the past 50 years, there is a general feeling among buyers I have spoken with that real estate may be the better investment now. To some, real estate feels more tangible and stable compared to a stock gain that may be here today and gone tomorrow.

There are a very finite number of homes in Marin County with very little new construction each year.

272 Fairhills Drive San Rafael

272 Fairhills Drive in San Rafael (Sold) is a stunning example of mid-century architecture

The Rules Before the Pandemic Still Apply

For several years now, buyers have been looking for the following, and the pandemic did not change that:

  • Walk to everything
  • Great schools (#1 priority for some buyers)
  • Single-level living
  • Mid-century or modern design (Modern farmhouse is still very popular)
  • Updated kitchen and master bath
  • Two family rooms so the family can spread out
  • Expansion potential
  • Indoor / outdoor flow
  • Recently remodeled
  • Great floorplan

We are only a month into 2022 and there are many unknowns facing us. It will be interesting to revisit this article at the end of the year and see where I was correct and where I may have missed. There is certainly the possibility that as the pandemic wanes, people will tire of being in their homes and we see a big boom in international travel and dining out. However, many if not all of the home buying trends existed in one form or another prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 just accelerated many of them.

About the Author

Thomas Henthorne is a top real estate agent in Marin County, California, affiliated with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty. Call or text him at 415-847-5584 to discuss the real estate market and how he can help you attain your real estate goals.

Thomas Henthorne Headshot

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